One year excerpt from "The Story of Alameda" an upcoming title by Eric J. Kos
January saw Alameda-born James Doolittle promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. He immediately began formulating a counterattack on Japan. He volunteered to lead his own highly dangerous flight mission over Tokyo and other key cities. But he’d need a few things from General Arnold: the USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier and 16 B-25 medium bombers.
Two great Alameda military figures came home.
In March, the USS Hornet made its first appearance on the docks of the Alameda Naval Air Station. The aircraft carrier would call Alameda home for the next seven decades and counting. On April 16, Jimmy Doolittle stuffed the decks of the Hornet with those bombers and stunned the world with the daring Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, boosting America’s morale and having the opposite effect on the Japanese. The targets were Kobe, Yokohama, Osaka and Nagoya. Landing bases in China were the intended destination of the 16 bombers, but the pilots knew all too well that if they reached those bases it would be on the fumes left in their fuel tanks. Some reports that early sighting by Japanese ships forced the mission to take off further from Japan than originally hoped. But all 16 bombers successfully took off, the first brushing the water with its landing gear. All 16 bombers reached Japan, and all 16 bombed their targets. Doolittle and his crew bailed out in China as their plane ran out of fuel. Doolittle landed safely in a rice paddy. His crew survived and found their way to American lines, but other crews had an arduous task finding their way through China, or worse, killed by Japanese occupying the beaches in China. One crew whose plane consumed fuel at a faster than expected rate landed successfully in Russia. Once he returned to Washington, he received the Medal of Honor from President Roosevelt, but not before he received four Air Medals for missions in North Africa with the 12th Air Force.
"For conspicuous leadership above and beyond the call of duty, involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life. With the apparent certainty of being forced to land in enemy territory or to perish at sea, Lt. Col. Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteer crews, in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland."
Doolittle’s effort is described in history a major morale-building victory for the U.S. which opened the possibility for the decisive U.S. victory at Midway Island just two months later. When the president was asked where the Tokyo raid had taken off from, FDR took a phrase from Lost Horizon and said, “Shangri-La.” Before long, the Navy commissioned a new aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Shangri-La.
According to wikipedia, Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains. Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, and particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia — a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. This we also know, is Alameda, and when FDR said it, he was disguising the location of Alameda Naval Air Station only just recently raised above sea level.
Meanwhile, back home:
Official U.S. Coast Guard training facilities opened on Government Island.
The May Day Festival suddenly gave way to a major Flag Day Celebration during the war. The first event at Thompson Field, featured color guards and local defense units, Boy and Girl Scout troops, patriotic skits including a dramatization of the history of the flag and Mayor Milton Godfrey leading the pledge of allegiance.
Two Safeway stores opened on Park Street, the last civilian construction in Alameda until after the war ended.
The Alameda Boating Club, long known for its strength at the oars, disbanded. In another blow to Alameda rowing, NCAA rules stated no high school student may use collegiate athletic equipment, effectively ending the program at Alameda High as well.